India vs Australia: The three-match series is currently levelled at 1-1 with India winning the second T20I by 6 wickets.
India will be hoping their key bowlers, Harshal Patel and Yuzvendra Chahal, are back to their best when the hosts take on Australia in the series-deciding third T20 International in Hyderabad on Sunday. India were able to plug the gaps in Nagpur to level the three-match series with a comprehensive win in the eight-over-a-side contest. But they will need their bowlers, especially Harshal and Chahal, to overcome their struggles ahead of the T20 World Cup. India had got off to an electric start in the last game with Axar Patel bowling a fiery two-over spell that included a couple of wickets but they are struggling at the back end of the innings.
While Jasprit Bumrah is sure to carry the responsibility, senior seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s poor show at the death overs is a real concern. He struggled in the Asia Cup and in the opener against Australia.
He was dropped for the second T20, perhaps, because skipper Rohit Sharma felt he needed only four bowlers for the eight overs but Bhuvneshwar’s form is worrisome.
Death overs specialist Harshal, who is returning from an injury, also hasn’t inspired confidence and perhaps needs a couple of matches more to find his rhythm.
The right-arm medium pacer, who relies on his variations to be effective, has conceded 81 runs in his six overs at an economy rate of 13.50 and is the most expensive bowler in the series. He has struggled to get his lengths right, remaining wicketless.
India rely on their spinners in the middle overs and while Axar has been a big positive, Chahal has faltered. He went for a lot of runs in the Asia Cup and the trend has continued against Australia.
India will, however, breathe a sigh of relief as Bumrah was his vintage best, showing no signs of rust after returning from his back injury.
In the batting department, the famed top order comprising Rohit, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli needs to be more consistent. The trio has not fired in unison for a while. Suryakumar Yadav has also been patchy in the past few games with Hardik Pandya churning out match-winning performances.
Another chink in the Indian batters’ armour is leg spin. The have continued to struggle against leggies and Adam Zampa has utilised this weakness well.
Dinesh Karthik, who played his role of a finisher to perfection in the previous game, is likely to get more game time.
Skipper Rohit would also like to give Axar, who is a like-to-like replacement for the injured Ravindra Jadeja, a go with the bat to see how the all-rounder performs in crunch situations. Additionally, he is the only left-hander in the side apart from Rishabh Pant.
The Australians, on the other hand, would also be concerned with their bowling.
After outplaying India in the first game, the Australians were at the receiving end in the second match, eventually losing by a massive six wickets. While Aaron Finch and Matthew Wade managed to put runs on the board, their bowling department failed miserably once again.
In the absence of the injured Nathan Elis, pacers Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Daniel Sams leaked over 11 runs an over. All-rounder Cameron Green has also been expensive.
Wade has been brilliant with the willow but with a World Cup to defend in their backyard, the Australian team management would like the big-hitting Glenn Maxwell, who has scored just a run in two games, to pick up form.
Come Sunday, both teams will try to iron out the chinks in their armours and come on top, as a series win this close to World Cup will be a real moral booster.
Australia: Aaron Finch (C), Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.
India: Rohit Sharma (C), KL Rahul (vc), Virat Kohli, Suryakumar Yadav, Deepak Hooda, Rishabh Pant, Dinesh Karthik, Hardik Pandya, Ravichandran Ashwin, Yuzvendra Chahal, Axar Patel, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Harshal Patel, Deepak Chahar, Jasprit Bumrah, Umesh Yadav. Match starts at 7pm IST.